ROANOKE, Va (WDBJ7) — From Augusta County to Wythe County, Second Amendment Sanctuaries have been popping up across Virginia. The resolutions are largely symbolic, designed to send a message to state government.
But Eric Tirschwell worries the sanctuaries could do some real-world harm.
"These resolutions are nothing more than an attempt to short-circuit the democratic process," he said.
Tirschwell is Managing Director of Litigation and National Enforcement Policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group. He says he's sounding the alarm now because of the rapid spread of the sanctuaries across Virginia and beyond.
"If these folks actually follow through on what at this point is really just a threat to not enforce laws, that's where I think the real danger will reveal itself," he said.
Tirschwell argues the resolutions are problematic for a number of reasons; most importantly, he says, because they put lives at risk.
"These resolutions could have, and threaten to have, a chilling effect on people who might otherwise use, or take advantage of gun safety laws to try to prevent harm, like a suicide, a homicide or even a mass shooting," he said.
However, gun rights organizers say Tirshwell and other critics are missing the message.
In statements to city and county governments across our region, citizens have argued that the resolutions are about making the Governor and House of Delegates pay attention.
"Because we don't have a voice at the state level. We only have a voice at the local level," said one man at a Pulaski Board of Supervisors meeting.
Supporters also say the movement is chiefly about standing up for Constitutional rights.
"Don't let Botetourt County be culpable in the death of liberties and freedoms," said another man to the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors.
Tirschwell takes issue with that, noting laws frequently decried by gun rights activists, like expanded background checks and so-called red flag laws, have been upheld in the courts.
"These officials aren't quote-unquote defending the Constitution, as they like to say. They're really threatening to defy it, and to substitute their own personal views of what's constitutional," he said.
Tirschwell says, for now, any threat posed by the resolutions is purely theoretical. However, he warns any officials who try to use the resolutions to defy state gun control laws could have a rude wakening.
"I wouldn't suggest betting on them," he said.
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